The little line of an apostrophe might seem relatively insignificant in itself, but one man’s failure to include it could end up costing him thousands.
The potentially costly blunder was made last year by real estate agent Anthony Zadravic, from Australia, who appeared to accuse his former employer Stuart Gan in a Facebook post of not paying retirement funds.
It seems Zadravic later changed his mind about his attempts to call out Gan as he deleted the post less than 12 hours after it was published, but by that point Gan had already been made aware of his comments.
The post, cited by Today, read as follows:
Oh Stuart Gan!! Selling multi million $ homes in Pearl Beach but can’t pay his employees superannuation. Shame on you Stuart!!! 2 yrs and still waiting!!!
Superannuation refers to Australia’s retirement system, in which money is paid by employers into accounts for employees.
The issue with the post comes with Zadravic’s failure to use an apostrophe in the word ’employees’, indicating he is referring to numerous employees rather than just himself. If the estate agent was attempting to call out Gan for not paying his own retirement funds, he should have written ‘can’t pay his employee’s superannuation’.
As a result of the mistake, Gan filed a defamation claim against Zadravic, and earlier this month a judge in New South Wales allowed the case to proceed on the basis that the lack of an apostrophe on the word ’employees’ could indicate Zadravic was accusing Gan of a ‘systematic pattern of conduct’, rather than an accusation involving one employee.
Court documents referenced by Today suggest Zadravic did mean to use an apostrophe, but his downfall comes in actually failing to do so.
In her statement, judge Judith Gibson wrote: ‘The difficulty for the plaintiff is the use of the word ‘employees’ in the plural. To fail to pay one employee’s superannuation entitlement might be seen as unfortunate; to fail to pay some or all of them looks deliberate.’
Gibson noted the trial could cost Zadravic more than $180,000 and cited similar cases including one that saw an Australian vet awarded more than $18,000 after a former client posted defamatory reviews online.